Ginny Wilson-Peters' Blog
Whether it’s a role model, mentor, or coach… what characteristics or qualities do you look for in a guide?
Last week, John Maxwell’s blog, “Qualities of a Good Guide” came across my inbox and reminded me of the importance of building relationships with others that you know will help you develop personally and professionally. Maxwell said, “Regardless of your level of natural talent, you will not reach your potential in life without the guidance of others. It’s hard to grow with no one else to follow but yourself.” So how do you select the role model, mentor, or coach to help you reach your potential?
Maxwell suggests looking for a guide with the following characteristics:
1) A Passion for Personal Growth – how will someone help you grow if they don’t have a passion for it themselves?
2) A Trustworthy Example – do they “walk the walk”?
3) Proven Experience – knowledge comes from experience, what can they teach you?
4) Friendship & Support – do they have an invested interest in you as a person?
5) Competence – can they be a “good” guide?
The blog also made me think of one of my favorite coaching quotes from Tom Landry, legendary NFL Coach, who once said, “A coach is someone who tells you what you don’t want to hear – so you can see what you don’t want to see – so you can be what you’ve always wanted to be.”
I’d love to hear what you think… what characteristics do you find most helpful in choosing a guide?
To read more, visit John Maxwell’s Blog at www.johnmaxwell.com.
Kris – Thank you for sharing the article with us!
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Leadership is a journey, not a destination It is a marathon, not a sprint. It is a process, not an outcome.
John Donahoe, president of eBay
A number of years ago I went on a 4 day white water rafting trip on the Green River in Utah. The route was mostly level 2 and 3 rapids with an occasional level 4. There were three rafts in our group. I remember getting to our raft and looking at our guide—a young man who was just eighteen years old. My mind went to judgment and my body went to fear about his potential inexperience. Then I asked him how long he had been rafting and how he approached things. His answer sealed the deal for me. “I’ve been rafting on this river since I was 14 years old. But every time I come to this river I always assume it will be different than any time before. The river can change in an instant—and I don’t take anything for granted.”
Alrighty then, we’re going to be just fine—and we were.
But that trip is such a reminder for me that leadership is an ongoing journey—and one that can change in an instant. And unlike the rafting trip, where we are encouraged to travel light, our leadership journey is one in which we often bring years of experience (and bad habits along with us).
Last week I heard an energizing and inspiring presentation by Chad Pregracke, Founder and President of Living Lands and Water. While Chad had many great things to say about his journey, three things stood out for me. First, he talked about approaching a local company to sponsor him and he asked for a large sum of money (a sum that many people would say he was crazy to ask for). His comment, “I didn’t set out with small intentions.”
Second, Chad said that if you set out to do good things, then good things will happen to you.
And finally, Chad said he read somewhere that the earth wasn’t destroyed all at one, but piece by piece. “And so that is how it needs to be cleaned up” one day at a time.
Those same lessons apply to our leadership journey, as was evidenced by the fact that the same day I heard Chad speak I had an email from a coaching client who is working to redirect some of her leadership efforts and overcome bad habits. She said, “I’m working on the things we talked about. It’s hard to change fifty-something years of bad habits…but I’m starting.”
And that is all that we can ask. If you follow Chad’s advice, you can start something with big goals, but also recognize that you’re going to achieve those one day at a time. And remember, that leadership development really is a marathon, not a sprint!
“Mind-blowing”; “amazing”, “helpful”, “enlightening”. These are just a sample of words used to describe the feedforward exercise from a recent weekend of MBA Leadership and Personal Development class.
The feedforward exercise is a modification of the exercise created by Master Coach, Marshall Goldsmith. http://www.marshallgoldsmithfeedforward.com/html/Articles.htm. Rather than giving people feedback about their past performance, the idea is to provide ideas for future performance, ie, how to do things different in the future in order to be a more effective leader.
Prior to class each student was asked to think about one area of leadership development they were willing to share with their small group with the intention of receiving feedforward ideas for the future. The class of 45 students was divided into groups of 5 or 6 students who hadn’t previously worked together in class. However, this was our third weekend of class so many of them had some previous interaction in the large group.
When the class came back together after completing the exercise, I asked them to complete the following: “This Feedforward exercise was BLANK.” That is when I heard some of the responses at the beginning of this blog. I think my favorite was “mindblowing.” What can I say? I love it when people think about things in a new way!
And while those words were exciting, what was most eye-opening was the comment from one of the students who said something like, “I was surprised at how quickly we all opened up and engaged in a meaningful conversation…Why is it that we can do this in this class but we can’t find anything close to that kind of conversation in our workplaces?”
We opened that question up to the class, and the majority of students said that many of their workplaces are so competitive that it is challenging to be vulnerable and have open conversations. And so I am once again struck by the irony of some of our business cultures. We want high performing work teams, but are we truly providing the opportunity and culture for our people to have the kind of conversations necessary to build solid teams?
Don’t worry—I didn’t let the students off the hook. I reminded them that if they wanted to be part of a culture that is open to having authentic conversations, then THEY have to be the ones to go first. After all, that is what leadership is all about—creating change. And leadership isn’t defined by a position but by your actions.
“A leader is anyone who is willing to help; anyone who sees something that needs to change and takes the first steps to influence that situation.” Margaret Wheatley (http://www.margaretwheatley.com)
For more about building trust in your organizations, consider books by Patrick Lencioni, such as “Five Dysfunctions of a Team”, or “The Three Signs of a Miserable Job.” http://www.tablegroup.com/books/
“A coach is someone who tells you what you don’t want to hear; so you can see what you don’t want to see; so you can be what you’ve always wanted to be.” (Tom Landry, former coach of Dallas Cowboys)
I’m learning more about coaching all over again. Last fall I began working with a personal trainer in order to improve my physical strength and to become healthier. In addition to the personal benefits gained, the process has solidified the value of the coaching process I use with my clients.
The training process with trainer Dave began with measuring weight, body fat and various body measurements. Yes, I was shocked to hear that while my overall weight wasn’t out of line, my body fat percentage was 31.5%, which put me in the 28th percentile for women my age. Wake up call—I’m ready for change!
The next step was to discuss my goals. Dave was great at helping me gain clarity about my goals—and where I wanted to be. For me, it wasn’t just about weight loss, but more about reducing body fat and also gaining muscle. My goal was to reduce my body fat percent to a very healthy 18%.
With the measurements and goals established, the hard work began. For me, that was three times a week training with Dave and three times a week of cardio and abs on my own. I also was diligent about my eating and kept a daily food diary.
This entire process has been a perfect reflection of the leadership development model I use. It begins with the realization that leadership is a measurable, teachable, and learnable set of skills. But just like weight loss, you don’t learn about it from reading a book—you learn—and make changes in your life by measuring, setting goals, and going out and practicing.
Step one in the leadership development process is to define your current reality (what are my strengths and weaknesses; how do others see me as a leader, etc). For many of my clients, we use a 360 leadership assessment to assist with this step. Results of the 360 assessment vary by client, but I will say that some clients receive the same type of wake-up call as I did with my body-fat percent. “You mean I’m NOT as good a leader as I thought I was?”
Step two in the process is to define our “ideal self”: how do we want to be seen as a leader? While step one requires a great deal of willingness to receive feedback from others; step two requires self-reflection, a willingness to dream, and to challenge ourselves to be our best.
And then the hard work begins. You know, I’m just like many other people. I was wondering why I couldn’t just get healthy without having to do all this hard work? Isn’t there a pill I can take and be done with it?
No pill for me—and no quick and easy pill for strengthening your leadership skills. Once you’ve defined your current reality and ideal self, it’s time to develop a plan and begin practicing new skills. Practice…practice…adjust as necessary…keep practicing. You won’t do everything perfect; that isn’t the goal. The goal is to continue on the path and to learn from your mistakes. (You mean I can’t have a large piece of chocolate cake and 2 glasses of wine for dinner and wonder why my energy level is so low??)
In my ten years of coaching others, I’ve witnessed other people create sustainable positive change in their lives and work. A short list of accomplishments includes:
- Improving listening skills (which helps both personally and at work)
- Gaining clarity on personal mission and vision and values
- Learning to better delegate
- Learning skills for leading change
- Exercising more self-regulation during challenging situations.
- Improving Emotional Intelligence skills
- Improving skills for visioning which in turn led to promotions to higher levels in the organization.
- And many more.
None of the above happened overnight. Leadership development is a journey. It requires an accurate assessment of current reality, defining your ideal self, establishing a plan of action, and then an ongoing commitment to practice and adjust as necessary.
Oh, and for me…I reached my goal. During my check-in last week, my body fat percent was 17.8%. Even though I’ve reached my goal, I’m continuing my commitment to my personal health, including healthy eating, exercise and continued work with my trainer. Thanks Dave!
“It that REALLY possible?” Two different coaching sessions led to two very similar conversations. In the course of discussing a job change I replied this back to a client, “So, what I’m hearing is that you want to be in a job where you feel energized and the work truly feeds your soul.” The reply was a hesitant question, “Yes, but is that really possible?”
The second client is in the process of taking on a new leadership role in the organization. “For the first time in years, I am truly excited about the work I’m doing. I found myself wondering if it is really possible to love the work we’re doing AND get paid for it.”
Two people with the same question: “Is it really possible to find work that allows us to use feel energized while using our strengths?” My answer is an absolute YES, it is not only possible to be doing work that feeds our hearts and souls, but it’s what life is about.
My heart aches when I hear people talk about staying in jobs that are not fulfilling. Some might say that the tough economy makes for a difficult time to truly work in your passion. I say the opposite. Why not take these times to truly get clarity about what is important for you? What do you look forward to doing every day? Do you tap into your strengths every day at work?
Research by the Gallop Institute and Marcus Buckingham says that 51% of people say that they feel an emotional high at work “about once a week.” The key is identifying your strengths and putting them to work every day. Here are the four indicators that you’re working in the arena of your strengths:
When you do it, you feel effective.
Before you do it, you look forward to it.
While you do it, you feel inquisitive and focused.
After you’ve done it, you feel fulfilled authentic.
(The above is from “Go Put Your Strengths to Work” by Marcus Buckingham. For more about the strengths work, go to http://www.strengthsfinder.com )
“What’s the difference between ‘fear-based leadership’ and simply defining current reality for employees?”
The above is a real question asked just last week by a CEO client. The question is a good one, and points to the delicate balance between being candid and real with our employees, versus stepping over the line and paralyzing people.
Allow me to share a quick story of two local CEOS and how they chose to communicate with their organizations about the economy and its impact on their organizations. The first CEO addressed her management staff with a candid and realistic picture of their current situation. The message was this, “Yes, we’re being impacted by the economy. But as long as we continue to do well what we’re doing now, we will continue on the course to achieve our goals for the year. Things are certainly a bit more difficult than we imagined, but I’m confident we can do this.”
Despite the fact that this CEO did not make any specific demands of people, I’m told that after the meeting, people began having informal conversations about possible ways to reduce expenses in the short term, in order to ensure the organization stayed on track. One of the managers said there was a real sense of positive energy among the group.
Contrast this with another CEO who also addressed their management staff with the “doom and gloom” message that has become so common. This CEO made a strong point of letting people know that everyone needed to be looking at cost cutting and that while the organization was not in any immediate danger, the possibility existed if things didn’t change. I’m told there was more to the negativity of the message, but the person who shared the story with me said she did what many others did—which was to “check out” a bit. Her story is not uncommon. Even though intentions of the fear-based message are often for the good, the reality is that many employees begin to “protect their own turf” as opposed to look for true ways to keep the organization aligned toward its goals.
So, how do you communicate the delicate message? The question is a complex one that I won’t answer in total here, but offer a few quick thoughts.
First, be clear and direct in clearly defining the current situation. “When alligators are nipping at your heels, you need to deal with the alligators.” (John Kotter in “The Heart of Change”) People can handle bad news. Telling the people the truth is not what creates the fear. That fear already exists.
Fear-based leadership (which is not effective) is when people attempt to use the fear that already exists as some type of weapon to get people to change. Might work short-term; never is effective in the long-term.
Second, communicate the truth but then focus on the future and where you are headed. After you’ve defined the current reality in step one, do your best to paint a picture of the future—and where the organization is headed, and most importantly, what individuals can start, stop, or continue doing in order to make that future a reality.
Third, be real and authentic. Don’t talk in “corporate speak”. Talk or write to people the same way you do on a daily basis. Be yourself and people will appreciate your openness far more than you might realize.
As my goal with this blog is to create a space for dialouge among leaders, I invite you to share your own stories, comments or thoughts on this subject by clicking the “comments” link below.